Golf courses on the market

Hollingbury and Waterhall Golf courses have been put on the market by Brighton & Hove City Council.

The council is inviting proposals to let the sites for the next 25 years to provide golf and/or other leisure uses.

The land is currently used for two 18-hole golf courses and both sites sit within the South Downs National Park.

Over the past few years, the golf courses have seen a fall in season ticket holders, golf usage and golf club membership, mirroring a national picture of fewer people playing golf. 

City councillors have approved the marketing of the sites as golf courses as well as inviting other leisure proposals. In addition ‘in-house’ options are also being considered, specifically in relation to ‘rewilding.’

A market assessment identified the following potential other leisure uses of the sites:

  • Outdoor activity centre
  • Education
  • Camping or glamping
  • Events venue
  • Restaurant/café
  • Wellness centre

Waterhill golf course

Exciting opportunity

Councillor Alan Robins, chair of the city’s Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture committee, said: “This is an exciting opportunity to provide a wonderful outdoor experience for our residents and visitors. By inviting proposals on long term leases for golf and/or other leisure uses we hope to receive a range of options to give both courses a sustainable future.”

The council has successfully marketed other leisure sites on long term leases which brought forward some interesting proposals. These included the Yellowave Beach Volleyball Centre on the seafront and the Sea Lanes proposal on Madeira Drive.

Hollingbury and Waterhall golf courses are owned by the council and are currently managed externally by MyTime Active a registered charity operating as a social enterprise to promote wellbeing. The contract ends next March.

Numbers falling

Participation in golf has declined in recent years. Factors which are considered to be causing the decline include the oversupply of courses, the length of time it takes to play a full 18 hole round (approximately 4 hours), that golf is relatively expensive to play, the increased participation in other recreational opportunities such as cycling and a lack of diversity of golf participants  

Over the last eight years season ticket holders have fallen significantly. Season ticket holders provide the core usage for each course and are very important for viability of a course. In Brighton & Hove there are a large number of courses all competing in a very small geographical area. A nearby course in Hassocks has recently closed.

Current operator Mytime Active has significant experience of operating a range of golf courses on behalf of local councils and has led a number of initiatives to encourage more participation. 

This has included foot golf at Waterhall, improved catering and function facilities at Hollingbury and various golf development initiatives. However the financial benefits of these have not been able to compensate for the drop in golf income.

More information

For more information and to arrange a site visit contact:

Kay Griffiths

Ian Simpson